April (No. 495)
AWIS: helping the wine industry manage environmental risk
Doug Young , Winemakers' Federation of Australia
AWIS is a new program funded through the Australian Government ‘Pathways to EMS’ program of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Most of the funds for the project will be used to fund a number of regional AWIS coordinators to help implement the program.
From our industry perspective this project is meant to help us manage risk. Currently the attention of international markets appears to be heading towards environmental and social performance and some other countries already have programs in place to demonstrate their credentials. We need to develop programs that will both deliver and demonstrate environmental benefit in an efficient manner so that we can maintain and possibly enhance access to our markets.
The Australian wine industry has shown considerable interest in environmental management frameworks for some time and a large amount of work has been completed. However, WFA often received comments about the need to develop a national approach that would be consistently applied by winemakers and that would both achieve and demonstrate the environmental credentials of our industry to both stakeholders and international and domestic markets. The AWIS concept developed from a meeting of a few interested representatives from some of the winemaking companies and other interested stakeholders in February 2004.
A short time later, WFA was successful in applying for Government funding to hold a workshop to develop environmental stewardship objectives. The workshop provided general support for our approach and directed WFA to develop a full application to the Australian Government for funding under round two of the Pathways to EMS program. In October WFA was informed the application for further funding had been successful.
Overall the AWIS framework meets three aspects:
- it is aligned to regional natural resource issues
- it conforms to HACCP and EUREPGAP principles
- it has a customer and environmental focus.
It aims to ensure:
- ongoing credibility with customers, non-Government organisations, regulators, communities and investors including shareholders
- improved community understanding and support
- enhanced market access
- efficient and effective national coordination
- regionally responsible, focussed delivery
However, there are many existing initiatives such as spray diaries, maximum residue limit testing and audits, best management practices, and risk analysis and management tools such as the Viticare Environmental Risk Assessment tool (VERA). In addition several regions have developed their own environmental management frameworks.
The AWIS program will borrow from and build upon these existing initiatives to cover both human health and safety and the regional natural resource issues.
The project will run for three years and is broken into planning, production and adoption stages. The project started in January 2005 and several milestones have already been completed. The planning stage is due to be completed by the end of July and the Production stage by the end of November. The whole project is due for completion in May 2007.
This entails a review of what is happening in international markets particularly the UK, Europe and the USA. This review is expected to cover both legislative requirements and those being developed by retailers. The planning stage will also include an analysis of domestic and international environmental management and reporting frameworks to identify those aspects most likely to be effective in the Australian context.
The production stage engages the regional communities through the development of regional AWIS committees and develops a better understanding of those natural resource management issues of major concern at the regional level. It will also pull together and make more accessible much of the work that has been done to date, including case studies. It will also provide the AWIS national code of practice and guidelines which are to be tailored by regional committees to meet their own needs. The key aspect of the approach is that the regional committees will work together to determine regional environmental assurance templates that can be incorporated into spray diaries.
Adoption stage - pilot program
In the adoption stage there will be a pilot program involving one small winemaking company and one large winemaking company. Lessons learned from the pilot will be used to refine the program. It will provide information to improve the effectiveness of the program.
A key component of the project is the formation of regional committees. If the regional committees are formed through an aggregation of GI regions it is expected that there will be about 14 regional committees across the wine regions of Australia.
Each committee will be represented on a national committee which will also provide guidance to the overall project. The implementation of the AWIS program at the regional level will also involve the regional AWIS coordinators.
The regional AWIS coordinators will be coordinated by WFA's natural resource management coordinator who, along with a small executive group, will be responsible for the day to day management of the program. As the recipient of the funding, overall responsibility for the program lies with WFA which will operate through its national environment committee, (WINEC).
How can your region be involved?
As a starting point, it would be useful for regions to start considering what environmental management data might reasonably be included in spray diaries, from both a regional and a national perspective. The WFA will be communicating further with regions regarding requested actions following the appointment of the National Resource Manager.
For further information on the AWIS program, or any information about WFA’s environmental objectives and activities on behalf of industry, please contact Doug Young, on phone or email, or visit www.wfa.org.au